Sergey Krivenko, member of Russia’s Presidential human rights council, told Russian independent news channel TVRain of a complaint from 20 contract soldiers serving near Murmansk, who were apparently being forced to go on one of the “vacations” Russian officials say their soldiers are having in Ukraine.
When Krivenko went to Murmansk oblast to hear the soldiers’ story, they told him of a weird training grounds a hundred kilometers from their base. They were brought there in tented, poorly heated trucks and were “poorly fed.” The soldiers underwent what Krivenko described as “combat shakedown,” preparing to fight as ordinary infantrymen instead of their army professions.
According to Krivenko, the soldiers told him of the unit commander’s speech when he announced they would go on a mission to the border region of Rostov, where they could cross the border to “perform battle orders.”
Unable to answer the soldiers’ questions if their mission had any legal basis, the colonel “went off on a patriotic rant: there is war, we need to help, to protect the Russian people dying under Ukrainian bombs,” the human rights activist told. The commander threatened to fire the soldiers, should they refuse to go.
The soldiers, though, did just that and told Krivenko they wouldn’t go to Rostov without a written order, although they would prefer to continue their service. On February 9, Krivenko sent a request to the Ministry of Defense, which allegedly dispatched a commission to investigate the event. However, the Ministry couldn’t give TVRain a comment on the issue.
This is not the first case of soldiers from Murmansk being coerced into going to Ukraine: earlier, a local human rights activist Irina Pakchaeva told TVRain of 23 contract rocketeers from Murmansk being sent to the border with Ukraine which, they were told, they could have to cross.
Human rights activists also told TVRain of conscripts being forced to sign contracts so that they could go to fight in Ukraine. The soldiers, apparently, have been declining en masse, which indicates certain problems with the Russian invasion.
The increasingly desperate attempts to coerce soldiers into fighting in Ukraine and silence the NGOs that report on such efforts may be explained by the problems the Russian army faces fighting the covert war in Ukraine. According to a Moscow Times article, due to recent reforms and shifting to a counter-terrorist doctrine, while capable to field as many as 50 000 men within 24 hours, the Russian army is ill-fitted for a prolonged conflict such as its invasion of Ukraine, which may have been one of the reasons behind Russia agreeing to the Minsk peace talks.